MES 321K • 13-MEMORY/IDENT IN ANC ARABIA
3:30 PM-6:30 PM
Arabs are proud of their classical poetry. The adage proclaims, "Poetry is the memory of the Arabs." However, for most of Arab-Islamic history, "Arab" identity was taken on by people who were ethnically Turkic, Persian, Black, or Greek. They constructed their identity in an Arabic melting pot under the aegis of a common sacred history and a poetic tradition derived from a legendary period in Ancient Arabia. This poetry depicts a wild and blissful age that was savage, true, and innocent. Our course will examine the major documents of this period, recorded as an oral tradition of poetry and legend. We will treat this literature as the cultural memory of an emerging community in the medieval world and focus on key questions: Why did early Muslims yearn for the past? How did nostalgia shape and reshape group memory and identity? Students will read Arabic poetry and lore in translation.
Four Papers 60% Midterm 10% Discussion 30% Four papers (5pp. each), one midterm, regular readings and discussion.
Course packet of selected readings -Adonis, An Introduction to Arabic Poetics -Abu-Lughod, Veiled Sentiments -Anderson, Imagined Communities -Caton, The Peaks of Yemen I Summon -Hutton, History as an Art of Memory -Irwin, Night and Horses and the Desert: An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature -Nagy, Poetry as Performance -S. Stetkevych, Mute Immortals Speak: Pre-Islamic Poetry and the Poetics of Ritual -J. Stetkevych, Muhammad and the Golden Bough